Kulgam: In the distant village of Frisal in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir an ailing couple has been struggling to go about their lives since their only daughter, who worked as a special police officer, was arrested and booked under an ‘anti-terror’ law last week. The wife, Jawahira Bano, is not able to cook or wash clothes while her husband has stopped talking.
Both the husband and wife are struggling with their medicines as well. The past week has been particularly difficult for Jawahira, a cancer patient, who underwent chemotherapy recently. She missed her last appointment with the doctor because her daughter Saima Akhter was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police around the same time.
Last week, when the family was preparing for a pre-dawn meal on the first day of Ramzan, a cordon and search operation was launched by armed forces in the village. Jawahira says she got scared due to noise in the dark as forces laid a siege in their village at about 4 am. “We could not even have the meal for fasting due to the cordon,” she says.
As she recalls the time, she begins to cry and shows her hands on which the skin has turned dark pink and blotchy. “I can’t work and my husband is also not in a position to take care of me. Our daughter is the only support that we have,” Jawahira says.
After she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, the family put all the savings in her treatment. They had to sell even the little property they had to meet the expenses. Her diagnosis came after they had lost their previous home to 2014 floods. The back-to-back problems took a toll on Jawahira’s husband Ghulam Nabi Rah, who was then diagnosed with mental illness.
Saima, who had completed her graduation by then, began to take care of the family, according to her mother Jawahira. She joined the Jammu and Kashmir Police as a Special Police Officer (SPO), a highly underpaid job within the police service that draws its ranks from marginalised sections of the region.
Jawahira says her daughter has been taking her to PGIMER Chandigarh for treatment and she managed all that on her own. “She was supported by her colleagues who treated her well but she simply lost her cool during the cordon,” she adds.
Saima did not allow the forces to enter her house with their shoes on. “She told them to remove the shoes if they wanted to search her house. They left and came back after sunrise with a local but when they entered, they began to clean their shoes inside and turned all things upside down,” Saima’s mother recalls.
Jawahira says she fainted then and cannot remember clearly what happened.
Saima shouted at the search party – over a dozen in number – and abused them for not respecting the family’s privacy. She began to capture the incident on her phone without giving away any faces. She even yells at the soldiers that “Kashmir is ours” and they (forces) were not welcome.
By the end of a nearly four-minute video, Saima wrecks her nerve. “If the militants would have been present here, they would have shot at you,” she blasts and the video is widely circulated on social media.
In two days, the police in Kulgam, where she has was posted before, arrest her and terminate her from the service on charges of “glorifying terrorism and obstructing government officials in the discharge of their duty.” Following the incident the police filed a case FIR No 19/2021 U/S 353 IPC, 13 ULA(P) Act at Police Station Yaripora.
Many in Kashmir termed the police’s action against Saima including mainstream politicians as “disproportionate and vengeful.”
The police, however, in a follow-up statement, termed the critics as “vested interests with malafide intentions.”
“It is clarified that the accused woman uttered anti-India and pro-freedom slogans off-camera thus inviting penal action under ULA(P)Act,” the police statement said.
The police also charged the family of being a “suspected shelter point” of an active Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant. “The woman has been on police radar as a suspected over ground worker,” the statement alleged.
The family, however, denies these allegations saying Saima did her job “honestly.”
For now, the neighbours help Jawahira with the money she requires as bus fare to meet her daughter. The neighbours also try to help her at home but, for how long they can do that, Jawahira wonders. The women from neighbourhood visit her home daily from time to time.
“Since last autumn, there have been three to four cordons in this village earlier the entire village but this time, Jawahira’s family was targeted in particular. Anybody can lose control,” a neighbour visiting Jawahira says.
“The authorities must show kindness sometimes,” another neighbour Aijaz Ahmad adds.